Lavender Love and Pretty Pollinators

The lavender has been glorious this summer, flowering just after our heavy rain earlier in the month and with very little rain since.

The dry and hot weather suits these shrubs best. And I am not alone in admiring them either… here are a few of the visitors to my garden who love lavender too…

Vanessa cardui – Painted Lady

Inachis io – Peacock Butterfly

Ochlodes sylvanus – Large skipper

Pieris brassicae – Large cabbage white

Polygonia c-album – Comma

Melanargia galathea – Marbled white

Argynnis paphia – Silver-washed fritillary

Gonepteryx rhamni – Common brimstone

Macroglossum stellatarum – Hummingbird hawk-moth

Bee 🙂

Here is the long view of the south-facing rockery – some of these lavender shrubs are ten years old or more and have been cut down hard at some stage. I try and stagger the cutting back, so that I have plenty of shrubs flowering well every year. The white ones will be cut back this autumn and next spring. Others are cuttings or self-seeded plants.

Do you see any of these pollinators in your garden? And if you grow lavender, what visits it most frequently?

Here is a slideshow of these beautiful creatures. 😀

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Happy Summer!

My Top Ten May Blooms

I am just in time to join Chloris at The Blooming Garden for her monthly invitation to post our favourite ten flowers. I feel I blinked and missed May, it has flown by so quickly. I have been almost as busy as the bees in my garden this month, and flitting about like a Hummingbird Hawk Moth! Talking of which…

Can you see him? Dead centre. The first day the Valerian/Centranthus ruber opened up, these amazing little creatures appeared! That is the main reason I love this plant so much, although there are other reasons to adore it too. In my rockery it will continue to look good for most of the summer, as long as I keep cutting off the spent flowers. It needs no other care except to be chopped down once it starts collapsing in October/November. It thrives on dry ground, seeds itself profusely into any nooks and crannies and attracts beautiful insects. 🙂

So that was number one: Centranthus ruber

Now number two, a pink Aquilegia, bought from a garden centre (unlabelled) many years ago. This one hasn’t seeded itself yet, unlike all the others. I am pulling out a lot of the dark purple ones in the hope that the paler ones will spread more. Not sure how successful it will be though as some have gone to seed already!

Number three is the peonies. This one is Sarah Bernhardt, which has produced several flowers this year after a slow start. Worth the wait though. 🙂

The other peonies in my garden are the early pink, then the deep pinky red, and of course the steadfast white Festiva maxima – these three all came from my partner’s Mum, and we think of her every year when they start flowering. 🙂

Number four is my surprise Iris which doesn’t show up regularly and appeared from nowhere a few years ago. I think it may be ‘Frequent Flyer’, identified from online photos and descriptions of the scent. If you know better, do let me know!

Number five is the Moon Daisies, otherwise known as Oxeye Daisies and in Germany ‘Margeriten’. There are more than ever in our wild meadow/lawn this year.

Number six is, strictly speaking, not actually a bloom but a seedhead – the Pulsatilla seedheads are one of my favourite things in May and June and I must remember to cut a few to keep for winter arrangements.

My seventh bloom is the glorious Oriental Poppy. I grew these from seed one year, planting them out in late August and since then they have wandered around the rockery. This year a couple of pink ones returned too, but the orange ones are the stunners and it is almost impossible to photograph one without a bee bathing in it!

Yes, there is a bee in there somewhere…

Number eight is the lovely Campanula my friend in the village gave me. She has also given me seed and a white plant, but for some reason only the blue ones come back – everywhere! 🙂

My ninth bloom is also a favourite, and one of the few plants that had survived the neglect when we first took over this garden: pale blue Veronica (which is also my current header).

It was hard to choose between Rosa rugosa and the wild strawberries for my final favourite… the rose won, because it was full of bees again (whereas the mice and slugs nibble on my wild strawberries!) and this year it is smothered in flowers and NO greenfly for once! 🙂

A big thank you to Chloris for encouraging me to document my top ten flowers each month. Do visit her post if you haven’t already!

 

 

Snow fleas? Pull the other one!

(If you don’t like tiny creepy crawlies, I suggest you go and look at a different post!)

On our walks in the woods recently we have once again noticed little black specks on the snow. Until now we thought it must be dirt from the machinery used for forestry or from old tractors driving through the woods, but this year it was extreme and so we took a closer look…

Here we saw that where tracks are (from tractor tyres, deer, our footprints, skis etc) there is more of this ‘dirt’. Could it be soot? Is our air so bad? Here, in the middle of nowhere, with no industry for miles…

When we got home my Man of Many Talents googled for ages, trying to find something about it, and when he showed me what he had found I was AMAZED! He went back to get more photos so we could check the facts!

Look…

Now I’m going to get even closer…

They are SNOW FLEAS! Now, maybe we are the only people in the world who have never heard of snow fleas before, so I hope I am not showing my ignorance, but aren’t they simply incredible? Here are several hundred or even thousands of them gathering in the hollows of tracks.

Now a little information that we found in German, summarized:

Snow fleas come out of the ground in February/March when the temperature is just above freezing. They are often thought to be soot, as they cover the snow quite thickly in places. But these ‘specks of dirt’ are all the same size (around 1 millimetre long). They can crawl and jump (about 10cm high). However, they aren’t actually fleas, but springtails, so Wikipedia says they are technically not insects.

They emerge at temperatures of about -3°C, and live on fungi, pollen or algae which provide them with a special protein that functions as a kind of antifreeze. They prefer damp forests with evergreens. It is a real migration at this time of year, as they use the snow to move more easily and to search for food and for new ground where they can increase their population.

For scientific purposes my Man of Many Talents let some crawl across his hand, and we think they are actually smaller than 1 millimetre…

So, please let me know if you have ever encountered these fascinating little creatures and any extra information would be very welcome!

😀

Interesting links:

German:

http://www.flora-x.de/schneefloh%20ceratophysella.html

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schneefloh

English:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Springtail

https://www.bioethics.ac.uk/news/-snow-flea-antifreeze-protein–could-help-improve-organ-preservation.php

 

September Favourites and 4th Blogging Anniversary!

SeptemberFavourites1

WordPress sent me a message yesterday to congratulate me on 4 years of blogging… where did those 4 years go?!

To celebrate here are some of my favourite things this September, captured late yesterday afternoon. The sun briefly joined me too.

The photo above is my favourite view at this time of year, with the sun lighting up the dwarf Miscanthus ‘Adagio’. The Acer in the foreground is just starting to change colour, as are the Ceratostigma plumbaginoides below, which provide for gorgeous ground cover till November.

SeptemberFavourites3

Another favourite is this beautiful Echinacea – supposedly “Orange Passion” but very different from the one I had last year (which the slugs ate) so I was possibly sent the wrong one. I shall call it “Custard Passion”!

SeptemberFavourites5

The old Tuesday view is looking slightly dishevelled at the moment – a lot of the lavenders have been cut right down, and some will need replacing completely next spring, but I still love looking across the rockery to the acer and the birch trees beyond…

SeptemberFavourites91

This Rosa rugosa surprised me with a few more flowers – it has kept going all through the summer.

SeptemberFavourites4

And this Knautia macedonica ‘Mars Midget’ is a real joy – it flowered in July and then I thought it had succumbed to the drought, but as soon as the weather cooled down it started flowering again.

SeptemberFavourites2

Nearby the Caryopteris is starting to open. The bees love it, and aren’t those tiny petals exquisite?

SeptemberFavourites9

Finally, a look at some of the plants potted up on my patio, which are giving me great pleasure right now…

What is giving you most pleasure in your garden right now?

Thank you to everyone who reads, likes or comments on my posts – I have had so much fun blogging and sharing thoughts with you over the last 4 years. Here’s to the next 4!

😀

What is Phenology?

PussyWillow

Pussy Willow, March 2015

Everyone knows the saying about March – “In like a lion, out like a lamb”. And then there’s the other saying which is very common here: “Christmas in clover, Easter in snow”…

These are some of the ancient proverbs passed down through generations, sometimes over hundreds of years, that show us the link between seasons and climate. They may have shifted slightly over the centuries, or have moved due to changes in our calendar (or indeed climate), and some may no longer ring true, but they can be as precise as any long-term weather forecast.

But what is Phenology?

“Phenology is the study of the times of recurring natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate.”

(Source: naturescalendar.org.uk)

~~

“Oak before ash, we shall have a splash

Ash before oak, we shall have a soak”

 ~~

Phenology is much more than a few proverbs or rhyming weather predictions; observing nature in the form of weather patterns or plant and animal behaviour provides surprisingly accurate information on when to sow, plant, transplant or even prune. According to phenological observations the flowering of the Forsythia for example is an indication that the ground has warmed up enough to plant peas.

Forsythia2014

Another example of this is that potatoes can go in the ground as soon as the first dandelions have opened.

ScillaThe first pollen, the first flight of bees and butterflies, the emergence of leaves on the trees, or the first appearance of migratory birds can vary by weeks each year, and can thus give a far more precise insight into the conditions prevailing than the normal calendar. For vegetable growers the phenological calendar provides helpful insights – such as not to sow your beans until the lilac is in full bloom – but it is of interest to me for estimating when annuals can be sown or planted out, when the spring tidy-up is due, or if bulbs can still be planted in autumn.

Every gardener can benefit from closely observing nature and interpreting its signals – not only for better results, but simply for pleasure too. Watching out for butterflies and bees or the first snowdrop are things many of us do already.

A bit of history

In 8th century Japan the emperor’s experts in Kyoto began recording the beginning of the cherry blossom season; the flowering of the cherry was considered an important symbol of the reawakening, fragility and transience of all life and is today still celebrated with extravagant ceremonies and festivals.

Hiroshima1993

Shukkei-en Garden, Hiroshima, 1993

 

 

However, it was not until  the 18th century that a European began to take down similar records; Robert Marsham, a wealthy landowner from Norfolk, began to catalogue consistently first flowering dates (such as snowdrops), insect activity,  seasonal weather and temperature changes, tree foliation, crop growth, and the first sightings of butterflies and migrating birds. (His family continued this tradition until the mid 20th century.) In the meantime Carl von Linné, the Swedish botanist, had started a network in Sweden with 18 stations and a German institute in Mannheim began an international project. By the late 19th century Germany was  keeping consistent records with a researcher called Hermann Hoffmann calling for Europe-wide data to be brought together in one databank.

WildFlowersMay2014

The world wars in the first half of the 20th century ensured that phenology did not lose importance, since feeding the nation had become a matter of survival and any phenological guidelines considered helpful for growing crops were given priority. This trend continued after the war, when food was still scarce and agriculture was trying to catch up. But with the onset of new production methods and chemicals in agriculture the records were gradually phased out in the 1960s and were only revived in the 1990s when talk of global climate change emerged: Canada, the UK and the USA were some of the first states to revive their phenological observation networks at this time.

AppleBlossomApril2012

Today phenological observations are not only of interest to agriculture however… the tourist industry is keen to be able to predict, for example, the famous cherry and apple blossom season in Hamburg, and hayfever sufferers can benefit from knowing when certain pollen is likely to be in the air.

Spring2013Hazel

In Bavaria over 250 volunteers (1,200 nationwide) collect data for the German Meteorological Service (Deutscher Wetterdienst), which recognizes not just four seasons, but TEN, beginning with the production of the hazel flowers and ending with the dropping of the larch needles. I will post about each of these ten phenological seasons tomorrow, so I hope you’ll stop by to take a look.

Do you use old proverbs to help you in the garden?

Interesting links:

The USA National Phenology Network

ATTRA National Sustainable Agriculture Informaton Service (USA)

Nature’s Calendar (UK – Woodland Trust)

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UK)